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Dealing with Defiance

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My son gives me such a hard time about doing everything: going to school, playing baseball, writing or coloring with me. It's very frustrating and exhausting. Do you have any suggestions?

A: You don't indicate your son's age, but it sounds like he's learned how to push your buttons. Be sure to choose your battles with him. You can't give in on school, but writing and coloring are issues that you can let him win.

Try to be very matter-of-fact with your son and don't get involved in arguments with him. In the mornings let him know how much time he has before he needs to leave ("You have 15 minutes ... You have 10 minutes ...") and then walk away. Many children see arguing with parents as fun, and when you take away that argument the game loses interest.

If the writing or coloring is important (if it's part of your son's homework, for example) focus on the positive with him. Let him know that writing with you for 15 minutes can earn a reward such as an extra bedtime story or a walk around the block just with you.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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